Para-Academia and the Public’s Right to Know

Para-academics fill the void of slow-to-print but rigorous academic research , the gold standard for peer-reviewed work. Media outlets are joining think tanks to attract readers by analyzing the news, not just reporting on it.

Operating outside the ivory tower of academia, journalists and policy analysts have many advantages to informing the public, first.

  1. Its faster to churn out
  2. It relates to current events
  3. Its simplified and easier to understand
  4. Journalists and think tank analysts are often more personable on screen than awkward academics (think smiling politician vs. wonky lab rat).

But if the public accepts these para-academic findings without a bigger grain of salt… what are the implications?

  1. Its not held to the same rigorous standards of peer-review
  2. The methods might be iffy (small sample, research bias, etc.)

What can journalists do to minimize these “risks” of misinterpretation and possibly misinformation (the dreaded CORRECTION)?

  1. Be more transparent to readers about limitations of analysis
  2. Address any potential counter arguments
  3. Reach out to multiple academic experts in that field and ask them to briefly look over the analysis before publication (or offer them a chance to write an op-ed for the next day’s paper).